A Good Mum

The Poppy’s Nine (one day old piglets)  are proceeding splendidly.  Their first day in the world was spent sleeping and drinking. They seldom leave the warm belly of their mother on this first day. So tiny they need constant food. So they drink and sleep and drink some more.

All was going perfectly to plan But I forgot about Molly. (I had brought Molly into the barn to be company through the wall for Poppy and also to give me time to get Molly’s piglets out into the field.) Anyway I was walking on cat feet through the barn to feed Molly and she leapt up onto the gate then missed her footing and fell with an enormous splash and clatter into her water tub. The noise was like a clanging bell.

This caused Poppy the Sow, in her area on the other side of the barn with her newborn babies (she is not in farrowing crate just a very large purposely designed farrowing pen described here),  to leap up – this caused one of her piglets to squeal loudly. The little piglet screamed at the top of its tiny lungs.  The screaming caused an avalanche.  A cascade of sound and   movement.

I froze then I brought my head very slowly over her straw-bale wall so I could see what was going on.

Every one of the piglets was down and frozen in place and Poppy was on her feet also frozen in place, feet glued to the ground, but her head was lowered and ranging from side to side, checking all around the space, her body arched upwards and barking loudly.  The sound of this bark was part terror part warning. I must try to describe this sound.  More of an  AAR,  AAR. Not a Woof. When you say it out loud emphasise the R.  It is like the controlled bark of a wild pig/dog standing its ground but deeper, longer,  it sounds a little lion like to me but just the first lift, it clearly means DO NOT MOVE – I AM LOOKING FOR DANGER.  I will bite it’s head off. Do not move. Stay low. Stand still.  Get away from my feet. Get where I can see you. Go down.  The rhythm is strong, insistent.  AAR, AAR, AAR, AAR.

All the piglets had dived for cover in that instant- literally covering their faces, sticking their heads in the corner or under a ledge, stuffing themselves into all their hiding places. They were down, flat to the ground, hard against their creep walls or hugging the floor. Frozen in place – quite still,  clinging to the very edges of their new home.  Statues. They are born with the knowledge that their mother can kill them by mistake with one wrong move so they have this innate ability to leap for cover in a millisecond and then freeze.   The moment she moves to stand they are under their walls and out of harms way. dsc_0048 day old piglets

Poppy stood on her toes, her back arched, her head down barking for about two minutes. (that is a long time count to 60 twice barking the whole time). Then, once she had ascertained that there was no threat and after glaring at me a couple of times, she went to a corner clear of piglets, she pushed at the floor, making signs that she would be laying down then slowly began to lower her body, barking “Away, Away” the whole time.  This bark was less frantic and definitely different but she was still obviously very upset. She put her head down onto her front hooves in the classic Downward Dog Yoga position, bum in the air, head down and held herself like that for 9 0r 10 long seconds, a long time, then when she had made quite sure the babies were out of the way she slowly, very slowly, in a desperate kind of slow motion, lowered her considerable bulk down to the floor and wriggling – rolled over to feed.

Then she began her singsong woof, woof. All is well. Come for a drink. This feeding sound has no actual rhythm. I would like to say syncopated – an anti rhythm.  But it is not even as organised as that. Her breath does not determine its rhythm it is more organic, jungly. Muddled. There is a low drum beat in there but it is held back in its timing like a heart murmur missing beats then catching up with no actual conductor.  The baton has been lost.

All the piglets, even the little piglet who cried wolf, came out to feed and all was gentle again.

A clever person could write it as music but it would confuse the listener unless of course the listener were a hungry little piglet.

Now I have an image of a bunch of piglets in tuxes and white ties in a concert hall, waiting for the sign. cows in field

When I was a professional Nanny in London I taught the children I worked with that if they lost me to sit straight down, do not move, talk to no-one. Wait. Stay right where you are.  Wait some more. Trust me because I would always find them. And they did and I would.  I would test them on this especially in museums and art galleries. Places they could lose me, but I  could not lose them. So I would slip behind a statue and after a few minutes they would look around mystified, and after the first few times at this game, not alarmed. They would sniff at the game, they would smile to each other and then sit straight down cross legged, lay their bags on their knees and wait. Grinning.  Sometimes in the most delightfully inappropriate places.

Kind of a similar thing don’t you think?

I hope you have a lovely day.





58 Comments on “A Good Mum

      • I have a friend in the French Pyrenees, who’s father is master of the boar hunt. She said if I go there in hunting season she’ll get him to take me on the hunt. He’s also a wine grower and they have to shoot wild boar to keep the numbers down – they absolutely love grapes and a family can devour a harvest in a couple of nights! I’ve eaten her mum’s sanglier casserole and it’s quite delicious. Don’t tell Sheila 😉

  1. Loved your description here, I could just picture her. I find it so fascinating to watch the communication between mother and babies in animals. We can learn much from them.

    • Yes and I think if anyone made my baby scream I would be pretty ferocious. No matter the age. We know what a pig knows I think we just try to analyse things too much..

  2. Even blurry, the new babies are precious. Poppy definitely has good mum instincts. Maybe it is time to look for another buyer for the the tweens?

  3. Animals are so amazing, they understand as much, or more, than we do. We just can’t always understand them. Your description of her being protective and then gently calling them to feed is just amazing, made my morning!

  4. When we were camping, we taught our kids if they got lost, to hug a tree. Stay in place and we would find them. Glad Poppy is a (normally) calm mother. Glad for her And you.

  5. Oh, my. Oh my, my, my.
    You held my rapt attention in this, dear friend on the farmy, and the tension of these few moments with Poppy and her piglets was palpable. You are so intimate and attentive in your relationships with all your farmy residents and it comes through strongly in this tale.
    I can’t help but feel that this would translate into a remarkable children’s book. It illustrates so very well how a mother pig guards her family, not unlike a human (children, do not open the door until I see who it is) and the lesson of what to do if lost.

    • I heartily agree, this (and many other post from the farmy) ought to be preserved and made available. I’ve been collecting and arranging some into poems — for all ages. Really good writing here!

      (Miss C., I made the “sow song” above into a little barn Drama. OK to send it to my friends via another we blog? I’d include it here for you to review, but since it’s almost as long as the post above and all your own words, i left it out. I can put it in another comment if you wish.).

      • Yes Albert of course you can share anything with your readers – I love the idea of you collecting the stories – no need to put it in another comment – we can come and read it at your place! c

  6. I hope Molly’s mishap turned out as well & she is none the worse for her back dive. I love your musical comparison & vision.

  7. What is so remarkable about this tale is that the piglets, even so young and tiny, knew what was expected of them, and OBEYED. She’s a very alert and attentive mama, and I love the descriptions you’ve given us for the whole incident, especially Poppy doing the Downward Dog!

  8. Fascinating! I had to read your post to my husband who loved it.
    We can learn so much from animals.

    • I think sometimes we forget WE are animals too and could do well to obey our instincts – mind you all the animals I know do lot of laying about sleeping so that might not be the best route.. c

  9. I like your description of the behavior of Poppy and the Piglets. You captured it. Nature has provided them ways to survive. Fascinating.

  10. I’m catching up a couple days. Oh so happy the piglets are finally here and all OK. That was some pregnancy watch, is she, isn’t she? Sent word to Chloe in Japan! Poor Poppy though, what must she have been thinking. Hopefully it was just, “Oh, it’s ok, it’s just clumsy auntie Molly.”

  11. That was a frighteing incident bringing back nasty memories..but this time all is ok. I love the similarity between a few small children and nine piglets…very interesting , sensible, and safe

  12. Yes, how is poor Molly doing? In the worries and concern over the new babies, and now knowing they’re okay, I am wondering about Molly and the result of her tumble, although I suspect she’s fine else you would have said. Those tiny piglets are so precious looking. Loved reading about a mother’s protective ferocity. Hope you have a lovely day too! – Mame 🙂

  13. I’m breathing again too. I felt that state of panic and could hear the clatter and barking. I agree, you will hopefully have time in your next life to write these experiences into children’s stories. They would be wonderful. Poppy is a good mother. Great photos here.

  14. I know those sounds you described!! Most excellent are the descriptions my sweet friend. The babies are so cute!! XOXO – Bacon

  15. I truely was on edge while reading your tale! Glad all is well with the babies and Poppy. Hope poor Molly is doing ok. When you think about it, you have the children stories somewhat written from this magnificent blog. All you need is time to compile and build upon. Time – such a precious asset. One day you will head down that path – clearly the signs and signals are revealing one of the many paths of your future. Rest assure when you are ready, you will gravitate towards being a magnificent Author of Childrens book. Have a lovely day.

  16. Maybe it was the pig that invented that yoga position and not a dog at all. I think we should re-name it the Downward Pig! 🙂

  17. Miss C. painting pictures, and composing music, with words again – what a treat!

  18. The piggies are adorable! So glad that Poppy is a good mum! Much love, Your Gayle

  19. I think fear was struck in all of us as we read this and I wonder how many of us tried to make the sounds that you described so well. I know I did!! So happy this had a calm, happy outcome.

    • Haha, yes, I was holding my breath as I read, hoping everyone was well, and marvelling at the instinct of such very young babies. I did the ‘bark’ in my head 🙂

  20. Never a dull moment. You go to such extraordinary lengths to provide the very best for your critters–and wham–oh the irony of life. Honestly! But all’s well that ends well. The piglets are of course absolutely darling.

  21. What a beautifully told twin-story of piglets on the Prairies and children in London 🙂 ! So believe in the ‘stay still, I’ll find you ‘scenario”. Was privileged to be the head volunteer guide at the beautiful Gold Coast Art Gallery for some 4-6 years, often pulling the Sunday shift. Was sad to see so many divorced dads on their day with the kids, and with meagre wallets, coming in the door: ‘missis, what can I show the kids here?’ Well, I had my proven faves and stories and Qs to go with them . . . and the kids were always told that if I had to leave them, just sit down and wait! Tho’ many a dad ‘got lost’ for say 1/2 hour for that necessary libation I never lost a kid either . . . . was rather amused to come back and continue my ‘tale’ to find more than one dad also sitting on the floor putting up his hand with a Q . . . oh DO hope you’ll make some of these galleries in London in Feb . . .

  22. Oh, what a good mama. It’s such a thing to meet a good mama. We had a sheep growing up, 202, and she was the best sheep mama we ever had. She would always have triplets, they’d always all make it, and you would see them all sleeping with her – one on each side of her and one nestled right up on her back while she rested on her stomach.

  23. You had me on the edge of my seat! I should have read this early with my coffee, instead of at night before bed!! 😀

  24. Poor Molly, she is going to develop a complex – always being in the middle of a birthing room drama. Very glad the little piggies are all ok. Next to Sheila, Poppy has to be number 1 sow on the farmy 🙂 Laura

  25. Celi, I was hanging on every word, I felt I were there as it happened. Hope today was calmer in the piggy parlour and that you had no more excitement than you wanted.

  26. A very wise game for children or piglets – passing that one on as it is so important. Thanks for sharing (small animals and small children have so much in common I’ve found. Both relying on patterns, tone of voice and body language for survival)

  27. I love the way you observe your animals so closely: movement, sound, etc. I can imagine you as a virtual pig yourself, you seem to inhabit the body of Poppy in her alarm, so fully. I’m sure this was the old way of farming, when every animal was precious.

  28. I don’t know how you do it .. It must have been nerve racking peering over the stall. I can just imagine them all heeding Poppy’s warning ..

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